How To Make A Work Transition With Courage

Transition. When I hear this word, my body immediately clams up and I quickly regress to a 7-year-old girl who hates change and still sucks her thumb (wait, what? Did I say that out loud?).

But as with all things in life, transitions come with the territory of being, well, human--and more importantly, work transitions come with being part of the modern workforce. Whether you are changing jobs to find a better fit for your career goals, entering into a new role because of a promotion (yeah, you da boss!), closing a business, launching at startup, getting laid off or embarking on any number of other career moves, this post is for you.


In my own personal career, I’ve made a big change five different times over the last 15 years. Going from a large marketing agency to a small boutique firm, then on to an in-house position (in the marketing department for a business bank), and from there to being a freelance social media strategist, and finally to owning this wonderful little firm, Summary. Each of these transitions was uncertain and somewhat hard at first, but I would not change a single one of them. Every time I have moved into a new role or career focus, I have grown exponentially and learned the tools needed to move into the next thing. Essentially, I have learned to embrace being the ultimate serial entrepreneur. And I love it!

Some would say that I can’t find my right fit (mostly I say that to myself on my most insecure days), but when I get down to it, I truly believe that making a change in your career for what you think might be more in line with who you are and where you want to end up, is never a bad choice. Even if you encounter many bumps and roadblocks along the way, the adventure is what I have found to be the most beneficial and rewarding part of professional life.

That said, it’s nice to know that we are not alone in our struggle to find the right life, fit and job. So in honor of creating a safe place to discuss these difficulties, and joys, here are just a few things I have found make a big work transition and/or life transition just a little bit easier.

  1. Focus on the first task at hand - While planning and strategizing for the future is beneficial and helpful when it comes to a professional transition, sometimes the outcome is out of your control, and therefore you can benefit from taking one small step at a time in the direction you think you want to go. For example: If you have started a new job, the tasks of the role and/or responsibilities may seem unmanageable. You may start thinking “I made a mistake in taking this job,” or “this is more than I can handle,” but if you start with just what you need to do to get up to speed in one work day, things start to feel a lot more achievable.

  2. Plan for the future, but live in the present - This concept is kind of a cliche (yep, love those), but also very true. I am a planner by nature. I plan so much that sometimes my husband will stop me mid-sentence and say, “babe, take a breath! You can’t plan your life away.” You may not be satisfied with your current job, you may feel that your business will not succeed, or that you will never find the right job, but ultimately overplanning for variables that are out of your control is just detrimental. I have found (being at total Type-A nerd), that just marinating in uncertainty is sometimes exactly what I need. A wise friend once told me, “if you don’t know just wait,” and this mantra is what’s gotten me through many tough spots. Plus, if you don’t stop and look around, how will you enjoy the beautiful, messy but amazing moment that you’re in?

  3. Pessimism is the enemy - Nobody likes a good crisis analysis more than me--I am a content strategist after all. And, it’s true that our natural instinct is to have a fight or flight in the face of change and fear of the unknown. Both of these reactions are natural, but also stay focused on a negative outcome. Whether you fight or fly, you or someone else is going to get hurt. So, maybe you let yourself feel that instinct or natural reaction for a minute, but then give yourself a virtual slap-in-the-face, put on your big boy or girl pants and get out there and hustle. You can be your best cheerleader or worst enemy--which sounds better to you?

  4. Mentors are magic-makers - Early in my career, when anyone would mention finding a mentor, I would roll my eyes and get squeamish. I think it was for two reasons; 1) I didn’t really understand what or who a mentor should be, and 2) I thought I knew what to do better than anyone else (classic twenty-something move). But now that I’m older--and perhaps a bit wiser, I know how important it is to have professional influencers or mentors in my life. You see, a mentor isn’t some guy or gal in a suit somewhere behind a big desk passing along metaphors and archaic advise, a mentor can be a former colleague or boss. It can be your aunt or uncle, a friend you met in a workout class or elsewhere. These individuals help us feel normal and accepted. They can be a sounding board for advice and concerns. Just make sure the mentor you go to has a few key qualities: a) they are respected in their career, b) they are not too close to you. As much as you love your BFF or mom, they may not be separated from your personal life enough to give you unbiased advice, and c) that the person is a good listener--focused on you and not their own needs.

Change and transition--especially big ones--in life are tough, messy and sometimes feel full of lots of stops and starts. It’s okay to have a good cry about it, and then trust the process and embrace the adventure that is life and get after it!

As one of my favorite historical figures once said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” - Harriet Tubman


Lis Thomas

Chief Decider at Summary Content Marketing

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